May 7, 2012

10 Questions with Shidoshi Joe Bunales

I think I first met Joe Bunales in 2000 - it seems so long ago now I've forgotten. He was one of the first to trust me with his training, even though he'd already been training for years in other arts and was highly competent.

Joe is an artist by trade - photography (he worked for PLAYBOY - hello!), video production, graphic, and Web design - I don't think there's anything he can't do. His artistry impacts his training on every level and he's better for it. He also thinks and sees the world through artist's eyes which gives him a rare glimpse into Budo that few others see - a colorful palette of tactics and techniques and a flare for brushstrokes. 

Lately, I've found myself reflecting on the people who have become the long-standing pillars of the Shingitai-Ichi Dojo and the fact that all of them display such Aristotelian 'excellence' in their character. They are all truly Ethical Warriors. Joe is no exception. He is also one of the greatest friends I have ever had the good fortune to meet.

Joe is raising three precocious boys with his amazing wife Norine, juggles work, family, being a Boy Scout leader, and still makes time to teach several times a week.

~ James

What is your personal martial arts biography?

I grew up in a quiet suburb (it was back then anyway) in the Washington D.C. area. As a kid, I was always fascinated with martial arts.

In the late 70s, the only martial art available in my area was Tae Kwon Do and I started classes with my brother and sister when I was 8 years old. After hearing a news report that the Grandmaster of the school had been hospitalized after being mugged, I was soon disheartened at the age of 10. It was around this time that I realized that there was something more meaningful in martial arts, although I was not sure what “IT” was at the time. The "Ninja Boom" hit in the 80s and I, like many others, began reading books and magazine articles from Soke, Stephen Hayes, Jack Hoban, etc. It was around that time I discovered my lifelong dream of taking the Godan test, which I kept to myself for 25 years.

In 1984, I moved to the Midwest and found a training group that frequented Stephen Hayes seminars. We soon became close friends and trained throughout the 80s. There were seven or eight of us who trained in basements, backyards, forest preserves, wherever and whenever we could. That was all we had back then – no formal instructors, just a bunch of young enthusiasts who loved to train and didn’t mind the bruises and cold weather.

As the decade of the 80s ended and the next one started, I spent some time back on the East Coast. I met a Bujinkan instructor in Maryland and ended up following him to the 1993 Tai Kai. I finally met Grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi, Noguchi Sensei, Jack Hoban and many others. Watching Soke for the first time on stage was phenomenal. During the seminar, Noguchi Sensei would stop by our training group. Sometimes he’d correct us, sometimes demo techniques on us, and always with a smile. I thought to myself, “Wow, there’s nothing you can do to stop this guy, he’s great – he’s got IT.”

I soon moved to Santa Barbara. I trained for short periods of time in other styles such as Kung Fu, Hapkido, Aikido, Boxing, and eventually took a 5 year break to pursue marriage, a career in commercial photography, web design, development, and family planning.

In the summer of 2000, I found a class that trained every Friday night that was only a 30-minute drive from my house that changed my life. I started my first class with my current instructor, Shihan James Morganelli.

In the Spring of 2006, while in Japan, my dream became reality. At the Budokan in Ayase, Noguchi Sensei stood, holding a shinai in hand behind me. I never would have imagined that the same shihan that came over to me at the Maryland Tai Kai 12 years prior, would be the one to help me pass the Godan test. Since then, I have been teaching at the Alfred Campanelli YMCA in Schaumburg, Illinois and remain a faithful student of Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu.

What do you think is/are the core value(s) of martial arts training?

Below are the core values that drive martial arts training with a positive purpose. There are definitely a couple more, but here's my top 10:

• Courage: Having the fortitude and willingness to do what is right regardless of your fears, difficulties, or the consequences to protect life, and the livelihood of those that impact our moral ethics and values.

• Faith: Having inner strength and confidence based on our trust in the teachings shared in our martial training as well as our higher sense of appropriate action.

• Honesty: Knowing how the truth preserves the purity of our livelihood and being worthy of trust. Dishonest training (not to be confused with kyojitsu) will only go so far - so avoid dishonest training.

• Perseverance and Endurance: Never giving up, even if it is difficult. Gambatte!

• Positive Attitude: Setting our minds to adapt to any given situation and finding the best in all situations.

• Resourcefulness: Using knowledge and training to be both effective and efficient.

• Respect: Showing regard to others with empathy and honor.

• Responsibility: Fulfilling our duty and support to your instructors, the dojo, training partners, other people, and ourselves within ethical reason driven by moral values.

• Health and Fitness: An appropriate level of commitment must be applied to keeping our minds and bodies clean and fit both in and out of the dojo.

• Asobi Gokoro: Lightheartedness, humor, brevity - keep it casual and light, but with respect.

Why do you train?

I train for a few reasons. First, I train for the protection of the lives of my family, loved ones, friends and those around me, which is a great deal of responsibility.

Second, because I've learned to appreciate the value in this type of training along with the rewarding satisfaction obtained from training in the Bujinkan.

Last but not least ... I enjoy it! I enjoy training and have a great brotherhood with the training group, and it’s all because of great teachers and great friends.

Can you explain your method of training and teaching?

I teach in a method that I believe will empower individuals with a certain type of character, which I hope would provide a positive influence with their livelihood. Therefore, with each passing day, this ethic then extends to all those that are in touch with them.

Is there a “secret” to training?

At my level - I say no, although I used to think there was. There are discoveries in your training, but no secrets. Whatever we are training now - regardless of how new it is to us, someone probably already did it. Soke and the Shihan understand things that they’ve been doing that we all have yet to discover. Some might think that those are secrets. I look at this type of question a bit like asking an old married couple what the secret to a successful marriage is, or asking a 100 year old what the secret to life is. In twenty years, my answer could change again. The reality is, one has to keep training in order to find the answer within oneself.

What would you recommend others do, to improve their training?

Generally speaking: Don't be wasteful with your time and when training with a partner, always be proper and respectful. Using excessive force in a situation expends energy that would have been better spent doing something more worthwhile. More importantly, be patient, especially when things appear challenging. This is where the lessons begin. Above all, persevere, and keep going.

What are the biggest differences today, than when you first began training?

Back in the day, there wasn’t much out there. Slowly, more and more instruction came about. Now that the Bujinkan has become more prevalent, the approach to training has changed a great deal. There’s also a maturity within the training nowadays that has developed over the years. It’s a little like the difference between rock music from 30 years ago and comparing it to today. The people who study music, would know how to appreciate the songs and artists from previous years as well as have the background to critique the songs and artists present today. Also, if you were alive during earlier days of rock-n-roll, there’s a certain amount of nostalgia and history you would have experienced which gives a certain feeling to you, compared to someone who was not, even though they may be listening to the same music today. That feeling may be very profound or very subtle. Either way, most people can tell the difference between the two eras.

What is the role a martial artist plays in our world?

As a martial artist, I can only say what I can do for the world around me and that is - help others be safe.

What one thing would you contribute to a “Book of Knowledge?”

Creativity should never be forced, you have to let it happen naturally, but with lighthearted feeling, and a sense of purity with your intentions.

Do you have any great hope for the future of martial training?

In general, I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. I am confident that out of those that have been entrusted to teach and share their knowledge, there are those that will keep the purity of martial training intact - as well as add positive value. That's what I hope for.


Ed Ammendola said...

That top photo is just awesome!

Anonymous said...

awesome words.